Punt? Who needs to punt in 62-7 wipeout?
STARKVILLE — Seemed like the only question to ask Dan Mullen after Mississippi State polished off Troy 62-7 here for the Bulldogs’ most lopsided victory since Nov. 2, 1996, when Louisiana-Monroe was a 59-0 victim:
Uh, Dan, how did you feel about your punting game tonight?
“Loved it,” Mullen deadpanned. “It was great. It’s always great when you don’t have to punt. I wish we never had to punt.”
That’s right. The Bulldogs faced only two fourth down situations and kicked chip shot field goals both times in piling up 30 first downs and 555 yards of total offense.
Mullen was asked if he had ever coached in a game where his offense never had to punt.
“Yeah, I have, but I’m pretty sure that’s the first time we’ve done that here,” Mullen said.
He’s wrong on that one. State didn’t punt against Georgia Tech in 2009 in a 42-31 loss. But not punting is not nearly as much fun when you lose as it is when you win by 55.
Mullen’s memory was about all that was faulty where Stater was concerned Saturday night. The Bulldogs dominated both lines of scrimmage in a suprisingly easy victory over a Troy team they beat by just six points last year. Quarterback Dak Prescott threw for a touchdown, ran for two and even caught one.
The Bulldogs kept senior starter Tyler Russell on the bench for a third straight game after a first-game concussion, even though he was cleared to play late in the week.
State has an open date next week before hosting LSU Oct. 5. Mullen said he simply saw no reason to risk playing Russell, whom he still considers his No. 1 quarterback when he’s healthy.
Seems almost funny to write this when State put up 62 points, but the game ball probably should have gone to State’s defense. Troy might not be the greatest team in college football, but the Trojans can usually score against anyone. They had put up 134 points in their first three games, and they scored seven in the first quarter against State while piling up 133 yards of total offense.
And then that was that. For the last three quarters, Troy was held to just two first downs and 53 yards of total offense. I repeat: Two first downs and 53 yards of total offense. You just don’t see that happen to Larry Blakeney’s Troy teams. Troy was averaging 40 points and 564 yards per game for its last seven games over two seasons. State’s tackling was physical and crisp. Not many, if any, tackles were missed after the first quarter.
So this was a very good night for Mississippi State coming off last week’s heard-wrenching 24-20 last-minute loss to Auburn. It was a bounce back victory.
As Gabe Jackson, State’s 340-pound tractor of a left guard put it, “We only beat these guys by six points last year. Obviously, we did something right tonight.”
And it wasn’t just the starters. Mullen was pleased with the way his seconds and thirds played in the second half.
Said Mullen: “I didn’t want to punt in the fourth quarter. We’ve got three starting linebackers on our punt team. So I was glad we didn’t have to punt. Our twos and threes were good. We were efficient on offense throughout.”
Efficient on offense, dominant on defense. Punt team? Who needs a punt team… at least until LSU comes to town in two weeks.